Iowa Representative Steven KingÂ remindsÂ us of an importantÂ characteristic of ad hominem arguments–viz.,Â calling someoneÂ names is not a sufficient condition for an ad hominem.Â The matterÂ begins with the following remark concerning granting amnesty to illegal immigrants:
“Some of them are valedictorians â€” and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds â€” and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King tells Newsmax. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”Â
Naturally, people were quick to notice that this remark was “wrong” (to use the words of John Boehner, House Republican Majority Leader).Â Yet, in an all too common response to criticism such as this, King attempted to turn the tables:
â€œYou know when people attack youâ€”in this business, when youâ€™re in this business, you know that when people attack you, and they call you names, theyâ€™re diverting from the topic matter,â€ King told Breitbart. â€œYou know theyâ€™ve lost the debate when they do that. Weâ€™ve talked about it for years. Tom Tancredo and I joked about it that thatâ€™s the pattern. When people start calling you names, thatâ€™s what confirms youâ€™ve won the debate.â€
No, that isn’t actually a rule.
This rule only works this way:Â Person A is wrong about policy X because Person A is an a-hole”.Â But this isn’t how it went.Â In the present case, we have Person A said something false so Person A is wrong.Â It’s an inference to Person A’s character from Person A’s actions, deeds, or words.Â This is very different.